In New Zealand it is common to lose 15% - 18% of lambs before they are tailed/docked...

The majority of these losses happen around the time of birth, with many lambs being born alive. There are many reasons why we lose lambs. Southerly storms are obvious culprits but diseases and deficiencies are harder to pick by eye.

To work out your level of losses use this formula:

Lamb Wastage = (Scanning % - Lambing %) ÷ Scanning % × 100

If your result is above 18%, then there is an opportunity to improve lamb survival. The key to capturing this opportunity is finding out what things are causing losses on your farm.

Your VetEnt clinic can help find out what is causing lamb deaths on your farm by carrying out post mortems of dead lambs found on lambing beats. The greater the number of dead lambs we get, the greater the chance of diagnosing the cause of death and drawing useful conclusions for next year.

The best time to collect these lambs is in the first 10 days of lambing. The lambs should be brought to the clinic or seen on farm as fresh as possible. If there is placenta (birth sac) available then bring that too! It is also useful to know if the lamb was from the singles or multiples, and whether its mother was a hogget, 2 tooth or mixed age ewe.

By examining the dead lambs we can tell whether the lamb was alive or dead when born, what its birth weight was, whether it died of exposure, starvation or dystocia, or whether there were any signs of umbilical infection or other infections such as Campylobacter and Toxoplasmosis. Dissecting and weighing the thyroid glands of the lamb is the only way to find out if iodine deficiency is an issue on your farm or not.

If you want to reduce your lamb losses, we need to find out why they are dying. This is an important first easy step. Once we know the reason(s) why lambs are being lost we can work with you to make a plan to minimise losses for the future on your farm.

08 August 2018, 21:19